Wednesday, November 19, 2008

British father arrested and locked in a cell for smacking son

The same police often fail to attend burglary scenes and refuse to respond to complaints about youth gang activity

Mark Frearson said he told off his son Harry because the seven-year-old walked off alone after dark while they were out shopping. Three hours later four police officers and a specialist child support officer arrived at his house, took Harry away in a police car, arrested Mr Frearson on suspicion of assault and locked him in a cell. After about an hour he said officers told him they could not carry out an interview as the witness "was not in a condition to give a statement".

Mr Frearson, a director at a parcel company, had to spend the night in the cell and was released the next day at 10am after the witness was interviewed and withdrew their accusation. The 47-year-old has made a formal complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission about the ordeal.

He said the police reaction was "massively over-the-top" and the experience was traumatic for his son. Mr Frearson, from Plymouth, Devon, said: "I find it shocking how easy it is to have someone arrested. To think that all this happened on the back of one allegation. "I appreciate the police's concern but even if they felt they had to take Harry away I don't understand why they felt it necessary to arrest me and lock me up before interviewing me or the witness. "I want an apology, I wasn't given any after being released without charge and I am still angry and bewildered at the events of that night."

Mr Frearson said the incident happened last Tuesday at around 6pm. He said it was dark and he told Harry to stay with him. When he realised he had left the shop there was a ten minute search and he was found outside in a nearby park. He said he smacked Harry once on the back of his leg and the two returned home.

At around 9pm police arrived saying a witness had reported Mr Frearson for "assault". The officers then took Harry back to his mother's and Mr Frearson was arrested and taken to the police station. He said: "They never even interviewed me, all they did was ask a couple of questions at the house. "My ex-wife Kate also told them the accusation was ridiculous. "There were about 20 people around at the time I told Harry off and CCTV but they still locked me up."

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall police said as a formal complaint had been made they could not comment on the incident.


BBC rapped by its own watchdog over 'biased' Thatcher show

The BBC broke impartiality rules in a Hugh Edwards-fronted documentary about Welsh politics that attacked Margaret Thatcher. The broadcaster's own governing body today found it guilty of being unfair and inaccurate in the programme. The ruling came about after an incensed viewer complained about the unbalanced and misleading programme on Welsh self-government.

The complainant said the programme gave an `erroneous' impression that former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher had `caused riots in Wales'. The viewer spotted that the BBC misleadingly inserted footage of miner's strike violence from England and implied it was happening from Wales.

Today the BBC Trust, which regulates the corporation, admitted the unlabelled footage had broken accuracy guidelines. Huw Edwards, who fronts the Ten O'Clock News, was accused of `openly canvassing support' for the Welsh Assembly and was also found to have broken rules. He suggested on the programme that for the Assembly `to achieve its full potential it needs even greater support for the people of Wales than it's received so far', adding: `The more people that take part, the stronger and healthier our democracy in Wales will be.'

The corporation's governing body backed up an earlier ruling that his words were not objective and even-handed on the subject. Its Editorial Standards Committee (ESC) confirmed it was not his role to `encourage audiences to exercise their right to vote on particular occasions.'

The programme called `Wales: Power And The People - Back To The Future' had looked at Margaret Thatcher's impact on Welsh democracy. It had originally been broadcast before the May 2007 Welsh Assembly elections before being repeated on BBC2 Wales on July 23 last year.

This is just the latest example of perceived bias by the BBC against Margaret Thatcher. Last year a leading left-wing playwright claimed he was asked to criticise Baroness Thatcher for her pre-prepared BBC obituary. Sir David Hare, author of Via Dolorosa and Stuff Happens, said he was approached to provide `balance' to the pre-recorded programme. He refused, saying that he would not criticise a former Prime Minister on the night of their death.

In the latest complaint the BBC was accused of portraying Thatcher and her Government in a `biased' manner', including its selection of speakers. The viewer said the programme favoured the Welsh Assembly and the Left, and made a `concerted and continual attack' on Thatcher and the right. They said Huw Edwards presented the show as if he was `on the winning side' and claimed he treated the final scenes as a `political broadcast' for the Welsh Assembly.

The BBC originally responded saying that Edwards had given an independent and objective interpretation of historical and political events. But the complainant wrote to the BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU), which partially upheld some of the issues raised. It had found the programme should have ensured greater balance, as Conservatives were seen in an `unnecessarily negative light'.

Unhappy with the first ruling the complainant appealed to the ESC, which is part of the BBC Trust. This endorsed the earlier findings, but also found that the inserted footage had been wrong too. It said use of archive footage from England in a programme mainly about Mrs Thatcher and the Welsh breached accuracy guidelines on the use of library material. The material was shot in Orgreave in 1984 when National Union of Mineworkers pickets were trying to stop coalworkers entering power stations.

The Committee found the commentary during the section was not explicit in referring to the UK as a whole and the audience might assume the footage related to Welsh events. But the ESC It said it was generally satisfied with the presentation of the facts and believed the statements about Mrs Thatcher were not inaccurate - but that they were highly contentious. The ESC said: `[The committee] considered programme four was not fair and open minded when examining the evidence and weighing all the material facts, nor was it objective and even handed in its approach to the subject of Mrs Thatcher's impact upon the evolutionary democracy in Wales.'

The earlier report had noted: `A number of contributors expressed themselves in terms which were explicitly or implicitly critical of the Thatcher Government, while only one (Lord Peter Walker) could be regarded as speaking favourably about Mrs Thatcher or her approach to Wales.'



Report from Scotland

Power suppliers are turning back the clock to use coal-fired plants as their main source of electricity in a bid to avert potential shortages this winter. Latest figures from the National Grid show that the fuel accounted for 42.5% of all power generation, overtaking natural gas production for the first time in years. The surge, from a usual level of little more than a third of total output, comes as the major networks seek to fill a gap caused by a slump in nuclear energy output at East Kilbride-based British Energy.

Nuclear power accounted for as little as 10.5% of output during peak times last week. This is roughly half the levels of a couple of years ago and there had been fears that we could see the first power shortages as early as this month. "Conditions have certainly tightened for November but we have an adequate surplus of supply and expect things to ease as plant comes back on stream after maintenance and updates," commented a National Grid spokesman. "We are not expecting to issue warnings over potential shortages this winter."

The National Grid statistics, which change on an hourly basis, provide little comfort for those who believe that energy from renewable sources can plug the gap at any time in the near future - hydro-electricity from Scottish and Southern Energy accounted for just 1.4% of production and wind power only 1.3%. By contrast, imported power from France reached a peak of more than 4% last week.

The major power companies stress that the increased use of coal is compatible with the drive for cleaner energy, and ScottishPower is investing heavily in "clean coal" technology at its Longannet and Cockenzie plants which could provide a quarter of Scotland's energy needs. The development will cut carbon emissions by 20% and has been accompanied by a five-year supply contract with Scottish Coal which could be worth as much as 700 million pounds.

It has been welcomed by first minister Alex Salmond, who says it forms part of plans to exploit Scotland's natural resources along with the development of renewable energy sources. While the UK as a whole is struggling to meet EU targets to gain 20% of its energy from renewable sources, he believes Scotland could get up to 50% of its own needs from wind farms, tidal energy and biomass as well as hydro-electricity by the same date.

Much, though, depends on infrastructure investment to link the primary sources to the National Grid, which runs the transmission system in England and Wales and oversees operations in Scotland. The organisation, which also operates networks in the US, is due to update investors on Thursday over its plans to splash out 3 billion pounds a year on capital spending for the foreseeable future.

More here

Private schools for girls growing in Britain

Parents are increasingly turning to private education for their girls as an antidote to a society dominated by "Botox and bingeing" and to protect them from the coarsening of society. The number of girls at independent schools has risen by 14.5 per cent to reach 235,702 over the last ten years, compared to a rise of just four per cent for boys, bringing their numbers to 243,782. In the last three years alone, the number of girls has risen by two per cent, compared with a rise of 0.6 per cent for boys, according to the Independent Schools Council.

Vicky Tuck, principal of Cheltenham Ladies College, said that parents today were anxious that their daughters were growing up too fast, and worried that they were being exposed to many negative influences. Prolonging the wholesomeness of childhood was often cited by parents as a key reason for choosing a girls' school, she told the annual conference of the Girls School Association in Winchester, Hampshire. "Worried about a coarsening of society and the toxic cocktail of binge drinking, internet safety and the early sexualisation of girls," parents were lacking confidence in themselves as parents, she said.

Many tried - and failed - to navigate their way by trying to be a friend to their daughter, instead of a parent, but such an approach was doomed to fail because the two approaches did not mix. "When did we forget the craft of parenting...or that you daughter is not there to be your friend?" she said.

It was often left to schools to pick up the baton. "Sometimes, surrounded by media reports on Botox and bingeing, it's easy to feel we lead in a moral vacuum, garden in a gale. But we must go on gardening," she told the 150 conference delegates from 200 girls schools.

Ms Tuck said that girls often preferred a single sex education for personal reasons. "They do say that it helps not having boys around either mucking about or making them worry about their appearance; that they can compartmentalise their lives," she said. But there were also neurological reasons that also suggested that girls and boys both benefited from single sex teaching because their brains were wired differently. This meant it was "crucial to cater for their separate needs". "I have a hunch that in 50 years time, or maybe only 25, people will be doubled up with laughter when they watch documentaries about the history of education and discover that people once thought it was a good idea to educate adolescent boys and girls together," she said.

In addition to helping girls and young women, Ms Tuck said that head teachers had an important role in helping the parents of daughters develop their own lives. School provided girls with "an antidote to self absorption and narrow-mindedness" through teaching and the opportunities for communal activities. But many parents lacked such levels of stimulation and support and often felt isolated and alienated as a result. By engaging with parents and providing them with their own community, schools would be benefiting the whole of society as well as their pupils.

Addressing heads at the conference, she said: "Is there scope for you to build social capital, arrange for parents to join in things at school to help conquer the sense of alienation and isolation - singing The Messiah with the choral society, joining a book club, attending an art class?"

Mrs Tuck also told delegates that it was "good risk management" for every independent school to consider the possible impact of the economic crisis. But she warned that independent schools could not afford to lose their advantages over the state sector. "Maybe there are costs you can cut, but don't dilute the essence of what your schools do that make them distinctive enough from the state provision that parents feel that their investment is justified," she said.


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